Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Scholar: Tolu Kolawole - Oyeleye
Undergraduate Course and Grade: Law, Second Class Upper
Previous Graduate Degree: University of Ibadan. Energy Law.
Graduate Course and University: LL.M (Research) University of Victoria.
I wanted to overcome my fears of writing scholarly and publishable pieces and began the search
for an appropriate research based graduate programme. These fears persisted despite having just
finished a master’s programme in Energy law at the University of Ibadan which exposed me to an enormous amount of coursework. I left the programme armed with vast knowledge, but I knew learning how to write was the only way I could communicate that knowledge coherently with the rest of the world especially in the academia.
It is important to identify what kind of graduate programme you intend to pursue. Your future career plans should inform whether you want to do a coursework or a research based programme. The approaches and outcomes of both programmes are quite different and can set your career on a different track. If you want to be a savvy corporate lawyer, you probably have no business in a research based masters learning the queer theory of Judith Butler. It may not be of much value to your future career goals.
I had a relatively easy application process and I believe that is achievable for you too. The most important skills you need will be to think and read. Think about what you want to do and read up about it. The internet is awash with beneficial information and you need to learn to use it to your advantage. I have discussed my experience under four broad frequently asked questions. I hope you find them useful.
1. Why graduate school? I looked up universities that offered the kind of programme I needed and reviewed their admission requirements. I narrowed down to one choice, the University of Victoria because I met their admission requirements and they provided funding for their graduate students. In the unlikely event that they did not, their tuition is one of the most affordable in North America. I was particular about an affordable second graduate degree because my parents were not exactly excited about splurging on a second master’s degree even though they happen to have two master’s degrees each. You do not have to apply to so many schools especially if you are unable to afford the cost of turning in numerous applications. Find a school that you meet 90 -100% of their entry criteria and give them your best shot.
2. Where should I do graduate school? One of the perks of graduate programme is that you get to immerse yourself in the academic and social spheres of the institution. Graduate programmes take while and you want to be sure you are comfortable and happy for as long as it lasts. The memories will linger! I was intentional about studying in a great location with a relatively mild weather in Canada and I did find it. Also, find a school that has the expertise in your research area! I recall one of my teachers, the only Law of the Sea expert at Uvic saying that someone who wanted to do research on Law of the Sea in Canada had no business applying to my school when they could have applied to Dalhousie as they had a research center dedicated to that!
3. When do I begin to prepare my application? The institutions you wish to apply to have deadlines which you should stick to. A word of encouragement for the procrastinating scholars like me. I started my application two weeks to the deadline! (the downside to this: you will be putting undue pressure on your referees!) While I do not advise anyone to do this, on the flip side, I dare to say that you can turn in a successful application in two weeks.
4. How do I prepare a successful application? You need to put in an original application.
Yes, original in thought and structure. Not necessarily a spanking new idea, but something that speaks to you and reflects your individuality. You can reach out to seasoned consultants like Get-in to hold your hand through the process. Admissions committees get quite a number of generic statements of purpose / research proposals which makes it even easier to tell an ingenious one. I had to think about a couple of the electricity problems facing Nigeria vis a vis the role of the law in moving closer to viable solution. I whipped up a one page research proposal speaking to the problem and I sailed in. (Your research idea doesn’t have to be all sterling initially, bear in mind that over the course of the graduate programme, your research committee will assist in tweaking it.)
The people who get into funded graduate programmes are those who apply. If you can muster the courage to put in a decent application, you already stand a chance. Put your best foot forward in writing your research proposal / statement of purpose.
You are perhaps the only person who knows how fantastic you are and all that you have been able to achieve in terms of your education, career and other activities. Be careful to highlight them in a way that speaks to what the university is looking for. Finally, I advise that you commit everything unto God’s hands for a successful outcome.
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